One of the main reasons why Amazon is trying to sell their Alexa-powered speakers as cheap as possible is because they want you to put them in every room of the house. Problem is, putting speakers in every room of the house just isn’t something people do. You know what’s in every room of the house? Light switches. That’s the reason why they put Alexa inside the Ecobee Switch+.
Designed as a direct replacement to standard home switches, the device reinforces your erstwhile light control with a speaker, a microphone, and Amazon Alexa, so you can bark commands at a digital assistant even without an Amazon Echo in sight. Because it’s a light switch, it also makes sense to install at every room in the house, so you can talk to Alexa not just in the living room, the bedroom, and the kitchen, but in the bathroom, the patio, and even the basement, provided you swap out the light switches there with this Alexa-powered model.
The Ecobee Switch+ is an actual light switch, so you can use it to turn whatever light it’s wired to on and off with just a press of a button (the entire lower section is one big button). Of course, it comes with integrated Wi-Fi, so you can also use the companion app the turn the same light bulb on and off, so long as it’s connected to your network and you know the name of the particular switch you’re controlling. According to the outfit, installation should be no different than a regular switch, other than the fact that you’ll have to connect it to your Wi-Fi network and assign it a name on the companion app. All in all, they estimate installation for each switch to be no more than 45 minutes.
What makes it special, of course, is the integration of a speaker, a far-field microphone array, and Amazon’s digital assistant, which, essentially, makes it a smart speaker on top of being a connected light switch. That means, you can have your music playing out of the light switches in your home, making dedicated speakers unnecessary (unless, of course, you’re finicky about how your speakers sound). It also means, the darn thing can do everything your Echo speakers can, from checking your inbox and reading you news headlines to queuing your playlist and controlling your smart home devices.
In case you install multiple switches in your home, by the way, the Ecobee Switch+ is smart enough to recognize which switch is the closest to your position and will have that provide the response. It has an occupancy sensor that can determine when the room is empty, so it can turn off the lights by itself if you allow it, while an ambient light sensor allows it to recognize when it’s nighttime, at which point it can turn on the porch light in anticipation of your arrival (again, only if you allow it).